Online Poker Tilt
Tilt affects every poker player at some point in their careers. It can manifest itself in
many ways, from minor annoyance at an opponent or receiving a series of bad beats to
longer-term psychological problems.
When emotions get the better of you and affect your regular rhythm, tilt has won and it's
your job to battle it so it doesn't happen again.
However, with a few key tactics to avoid tilt, you can carry on your poker journey and
come out a winner in the long term.
Common Causes of Tilt
- Massive downswings
- Getting a bad beat
- Being trash-talked by another player
- Coming up against lucky fish
Poker is a game made up of many factors, but because it involves money and a fair
proportion of luck, when both things disappear they can turn your world upside
Factor in coming up against a terrible player who just seems to catch every out against
you, and it can create a perfect tilt storm to knock you sideways.
Going on a long-term downswing is perhaps the biggest cause of tilt. You've been there: a
seemingly unending downward spiral of losses and bad beats that can't be reversed. As a
result you get angry, upset and depressed, and this affects your whole approach to the
On a smaller scale (although just as significant) is a terrible bad beat. You're on the
bubble in a big MTT and a guy hits his one-outer on the river to bust you. Of course,
you've done nothing wrong and have played great poker up to that point - that just makes
As a result you go and curl up in a corner, perhaps throw a few insults in the general
direction of your opponent, and take a break. Worse, however, you launch into another
game straight away to take your mind off the loss and attempt to make some money
That's when you know tilt has got you. Inevitably, however, you'll end up losing more as
you're only playing another game to get over the loss in the previous one. Your
once-clear mind is now clouded and you're not thinking straight.
Just as annoying as being out-drawn (particularly if it's against a bad player) is being
trash-talked at the table.
Although mostly heard in a live poker room, it's common online too, but the effect is the
same: an opponent has got into your head and it's affected your game.
A talky opponent who's berating you for moves, bragging about winning hands against you
or generally rubbing you up the wrong way can easily put you on tilt. You lose
concentration, you start playing more aggressively "to get back at him", and you lose
sense of the overall picture: namely, to win pots against ALL players.
Ongoing Effects of Tilt
- Disillusionment with the game
- Losing even more money
While a bad beat or irritating opponent can put you on tilt in the short term, persistent
losses can have a longer-term effect.
You might get totally fed up with poker, you might be playing without enjoying what
you're doing and end up getting into a bigger spiral of losses. This brings with it its
own problems, like depression and going completely bust.
Understanding You're On Tilt
- You gamble on poor/marginal hands
- You shout and gesticulate
- You rush to chase losses
The key to battling tilt is understanding the causes of tilt, and recognizing you're on
Work out what causes you to get annoyed in a game and lose focus, and recognize what
tendencies you display when you're on tilt.
This can be verbal signs like shouting at the monitor or internalizing your frustrations,
or psychological clues like rushing off to higher-stakes games to chase losses or
gambling on hands you wouldn't normally do.
Once you've picked your threshold point for tilt, it's time to do battle.
Top 3 Tips For Handling Tilt
1 - Catch It Early
Handling tilt is about catching it early. Tilt is psychological, so it's important to
work through why you're annoyed and why you're quick to react badly to it.
Killing tilt is about recognizing those moments and chipping slowly away at them until
they're sorted. Make short notes for a 'tile profile' and work towards eliminating each
2 - Set Yourself Goals
It's really important to set yourself a set of goals. These can be run through every time
you're ready to play. Focus on what you need to do in the event of a bad beat or
downswing: prepare yourself to deal with a loss, accept it, and move on.
You can change your goals depending on what you're playing too. Your goals for tilt might
be different for a low-stakes cash game than a big guaranteed MTT, for example.
3 - Accept That Variance is Part of the Game
Handling tilt is also about accepting that gambling (and therefore, luck) is part and
parcel of poker. Even if you think you're a hotshot player, you'll inevitably hit a
period of variance (the up and downswings in poker). Every player hits downswings, even
when they're doing the right thing, and if you accept them you'll be a happier
Poker is a fantastic game that's fun to play, but losing is part of the game. Accept that
if you keep on doing the right thing your profits should improve over the long-term. Do
that and you'll be able to keep tilt at bay.